Tuesday, September 28, 2010

27 Days South of the Equator

This blog is a long one since I haven’t been able to write in 3 weeks. Anyways Thursday completes one month that Ashley and I have been here!!

The Sisters decided they want us to learn the economic, social, political etc. about the country as well as the different programs they have. They also said that once we feel comfortable in the country and know the different programs the site has to offer, we would then choose, and officially begin to work.

Ashley and I have been doing a little bit of everything in the past couple of weeks. There was one day when we went to a rural community called Potrero. Potrero is pretty far and to get there you have to go in a pick up truck over dirt paths, that I couldn’t even tell were “roads,” and a field of palm trees and tomato crops. It was pretty awesome! Once we were there we had a group psychology session. The people who are from these rural communities mainly speak Guarani so it was difficult to understand the session, but the psychologist tried to explain to us as best they could. Basically the group session was about couple’s relationships. The women discussed how through the Alcoholics Anonymous groups the Sister of the Good Shepherd (GSV) host, their husbands have been drinking less. The women or even some of the husbands that were there expressed how happy they were about how their relationships were improving with their spouse since they began attending the meetings.

A couple of weeks ago I spent the past couple of days translating a report for the Sister’s of GSV. They have a partnership with a sponsor-a-child program with Canada. It was a little intimidating because the last thing I wanted to do was to phrase something in a way that would make the organization in Canada question the program here in Paraguay. Ashley had the chance to work one morning in the “Escuela de Taller.” The school is made up of girls 11 and up who come from a bad home situation or who are homeless. Once at the school, they receive breakfast and lunch before going to school, at one. In the morning they learn trades like cooking, manicures, hairdressing etc. as a small skill they can use to make money. For example, the girls cook breakfast every morning and they sell what they make to everyone in the offices where the other people at the site work.

Last Friday we were able to visit a women’s penitentiary in Asuncion called the Good Shepherd. It is a state owned prison, but also ran by the sisters. We went there to celebrate the patron saint of the prison. After the mass they held, they had a small procession around the jail while carrying around the saint. Ashley and I also participated. These women were really happy to see the group of people who came to participate in the celebration. I didn’t know it was allowed, but some of the women are even raising their children in this jail. Looking back at my experience there, I realize that it wasn’t like the jails we have in the US. The women, or at least some of them were able to walk around. Most of the women have been imprisoned for stealing or prostitution. Looking at them you could see they were burned or cut up. It was an interesting experience, because it was one I never had. I would like to go back and just get to know the women or hear their stories, but that’s easier said than done.

Right now I believe what I want to do in terms of work is to sit down with the girls from the Escuela de Taller and discuss different topics such as love, relationships, school, and self-esteem. After speaking with the psychologist that work with the girls, we decided that I will be running these meeting with the girls once a week for the rest of the year. When I’m not meeting with the girls I will be going with the psychologists to different communities to participate with the group meetings they have with the women of the community.

Our co-workers/new friends were assigned to also be our tour guides and show us around and they DEFINTELY have been doing that. The red political party in Paraguay is supposed to be the party “del pueblo” or the people. Three Saturdays ago was their anniversary, but the festivities began Friday evening. Ashley and I were very lucky to find out that our “tour guides” are also part of the red party. We spent the night sharing beer (the same way they share maté) and dancing to Paraguayan folkloric music at the red party center. The next day we went to their festival where they played traditional red party songs and had people dance, sing, and play songs. After that part of the festival, there was what I like to call an “after-festival”. Everyone got up and started dancing cumbia and “polka”-which is their folkloric dance.

This weekend was probably my favorite so far. My friend from work David is the theatre teacher. So one day as we began to talk about art, literature, politics, etc. over maté we decided that we needed to take a trip. This weekend after I hopped on his dirt bike (since that’s what everyone here drives), he showed me around. He took me to the lake I had mentioned before when I went to San Bernandino. This lake is I believed called Ypacarai, which is Guarania for man who cried a lot. To make a long legend short, one day this man cried so much that his tears ended up becoming the huge lake. The entire trip was absolutely beautiful! We took a scenic road that was bright green with vegetation and also bursting with bright colors with flowers that are beginning to bloom. I felt like I was in The Motorcycle Diaries. We arrived to a city called Aregua, known for the large water jugs that are made there. The roads were cobblestone and had huge colonial style houses with roses growing everywhere. To our surprise we found a small art gallery! I was so excited to see Paraguayan art and it was beautiful! I might be able to show pictures. Then down the street was The Cultural House of Aregua. Inside you could find more pottery, art, really old post cards, hear old Argentine tango and tons and tons of classic novels!

So far we found a scorpion in my room, in the bathroom, and at work. The irony in all of this is, is that everyone swears there aren’t a lot of scorpions. Ashley and I definitely disagree. Also last week we saw a crocodile when we went out. Of course since Ashley is the next Steve Irwin, she decides that she wants to call the crocodile over!! Thank goodness Good Shepherd Volunteers gave us insurance!

Last, but not least, yesterday was a really tough day for me. I think the honeymoon bliss is beginning to fade. I absolutely love it here, but I think nostalgia and the questioning of my sense purpose is also starting to grow. Ashley and I spoke about how we were feeling and we felt better. Yet, we decided that if we stole one the stray puppies on the street from it’s mom and kept it, we would feel so much happier. The best part in all of this was that while we were having this discussion, one of the sisters came up to us and told us they had taken one of the puppies and that it’s going to live with us now on the property! She told Ashley and I that we can name the dog. We volunteered to wash it and take it to the vet. In the end Ashley and I have something else to look forward to and make us happy! The puppy is now part of the GSV community! =)


  1. Puppies are helping me too, we have four: Rex, Lis, Lola, and Wolf(the runt). Mmmm questioning sense of purpose...had that talk with my director today and I'm only one week into my work placement ;-) Don't think I've had a honeymoon though.

  2. omg that's awesome!! 4 puppies sounds amazing =) lol Magda! well i'm about a month in and now i'm beginning to question...kinda feel like i don't have any direction!! ahhhhh any books u recommend? i'm reaading the Paulo Coehlo book, Down By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept. It's very very very good! What's Malaysia like ?